Jörg Widmann: String Quartet No.1

Program Note

Jörg Widmann (b.1973)
String Quartet No. 1 (1997)

“My first string quartet originated as a commission issued by the foundation Karl Klingler Stiftung for the 6th International String Quartet Competition in 1998.  The work was designed to provide a challenge for the technical and expressive abilities of the competing musicians and is therefore characterized by great leaps, numerous espressivo passages and technical obstacles.

As a young composer writing your first string quartet, it is a big challenge, because the tradition is so precious and so wonderful, especially for this sacred genre. I really hesitated. I wrote 200 beginnings, and they all felt wrong. After the second hundredth attempt to start the piece, I decided the right thing would be to make my doubts be heard at the beginning. The pressure—literally you hear it in the music. It was like going into cold water without knowing if you can swim. Only at the end of the piece did I have the impression, ‘Yes, I can swim.’ I could not dream of the fact that there would be a whole cycle of string quartets within the course of 8 years.”

—Jörg Widmann